Before Jackie Robinson was even born, at a time when the United States Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal"
was constitutional and African American’s were relegated to steward jobs in the United States Armed Forces, the
San Diego Police Department employed pioneering officers. 

In 1909, Special Officer Frank McCarter was assigned to patrol “Darktown”, the same segregated neighborhood in
which he lived.  Despite the very obvious danger of enforcing the law among people who knew where his family
lived, Officer McCarter quickly proved himself capable, brave and resourceful.  He resigned in frustration in 1911
however he was back by 1913.  A veteran of the Spanish American War, by the time Officer McCarter left the SDPD
in 1915 to become a pastor he was one of its most respected men.

On August 27, 1913, SDPD announced the hiring of two African American policemen, Charles Swain and J.C. Roark. 
A year later Swain was in the news when, as a former officer, he made an arrest without authority.

In 1915 Reginald S. Townsend was appointed as the first full time African American SDPD Detective.  During his career
he investigated crimes ranging from simple theft to murder.  Early in his career he was teamed with a county health
inspector was two worked side by side to successfully close the notorious Stingaree District.  In 1918, Townsend
played a vital role in arresting two of San Diego's most elusive killers.  Towsend left the SDPD in 1919 due to political
fallout however his legacy paved the way for Stingaree (now known as the Gaslamp) to become a
highly popular entertainment venue.

Sergeant John Cloud holds the distinction of being the first African American to complete a 20-year SDPD career as well
as in becoming our first black sergeant.  At a time when most police agencies in America wouldn’t consider hiring a black officer, Sergeant Cloud supervised white officers – many of whom specifically requested to work for him.

To learn more about pioneering black officers, click on the names below.
HONORING THOSE WHO SERVED PRIOR TO THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964